Simplicity Sewing Book 1958

Last time I was home, my parents gave me this Simplicity Sewing book a friend of theirs had picked up for me at an estate sale. I had seen these sewing books--really more like what we would call a "bookazine"--online before, but I was so excited to have one of my own! This one is from 1958, and I thought I'd give you all a peek inside... it is stuffed with all the information you could have wanted in those pre-blog days.

Since this book is a Simplicity imprint, it first details alllllll the different pattern sizes that were available in 1958--although the vast majority of patterns I see on etsy are the standard miss-woman I do occasionally stumble across the odd junior or teen sized pattern, and have several in my stash. The alternate silhouettes available seem so arbitrary to me--like, half sizes are for petite (5'3") pears, but there isn't a corresponding pear-shape line for 5'6" women (oh, how I wish there were!). And bless you if you were ever forced into a "chubbie" pattern as a child. 

I also appreciated the unfamiliar substrates in their long list of fabrics. There is cotton, wool, and silk, of course, then nylon, then... Dacron! Orlon! We don't see those often.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to walking the reader through construction of a few generic patterns in detail, including a button-front blouse, a gored skirt, a man's shirt, and a girl's dress. The idea is that you could use the instructions to help you sew any number of similar Simplicity patterns. I think it's a bit like the sew-along of its day, with a bit more detail than the notoriously sparse vintage pattern instruction booklet, and photos instead of sketches. I can see that if you were a beginner, this would be very helpful! I'm hoping to make one more coat before spring really sets in (we'll see) and I might use this and see how it goes.

It also has a tailoring section. I still haven't started in on my navy blazer because I've been so overwhelmed by tailoring, and I'm thinking that if I stick to the details included in this book and ignore the ten million other techniques I've seen online, I might be able to manage it without having a breakdown. Call it a vintage project, using vintage techniques only, or something.  

Finally, those of you who have been following my New Year, New Wardrobe exploration, or are working on a capsule wardrobe yourself, might find this section interesting! I took close ups of each one so you could see for yourself: what color does Simplicity think you should wear? (1958 edition.) 

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well my self-selected colors--white/cream/nude, blush, coral, camel, pale blue, lavender, navy, hunter--correspond to the "blonde hair - brown eyes" section. Blush and camel are definitely in the lineup, as well as a dark green and something that could be coral or could be bright, bright orange. (I'm going with coral.) The last color is a blue-purple, and while I've read before that you should wear purple eye makeup with brown eyes, and I like purple, I don't really know how to wear it. I think I'll stick to navy and keep my purple to the lavender end of the spectrum. Interesting how much overlap there is, don't you think?

That black hair - blue eyes is a winter color palette if I've ever seen one!

The woman on the left is so pretty, don't you think? And the lady in the middle either had a printing mishap or ingested a bit too much spice, her eyes are very blue. 

I really enjoyed the inclusion of these lovely grey and white haired ladies and the bold color palettes chosen for them. Gorgeous greens, especially.

Along with the suggested colors, there's a bit on "figure flattery" using optical illusions to make yourself appear taller and thinner. It has a lot of the advice that is still dished out in fashion magazines today, just featuring a different set of styles to help you achieve the desired illusions--no bootcut jeans in sight.

That's the 1958 Simplicity Sewing book! There seems to be no shortage of 50s and 60s Simplicity Sewing books floating around, and for reasonable prices. I think it's a pretty handy resource, even today. I'd love to get a copy from the mid-60s and see how much has changed--or not! 

What do you think of the colors suggested for you--would you wear them? Do you already? Would you take advice from a book that is 60 years old? Or would you rather stick to blogs and facebook sewing groups?


ps: thank you to my dad's gamer group who have caught on to the fact that i love anything vintage sewing :)

allie J.

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  1. Well hello there, did I spot a Dune reference? ;-) I've picked up a few old Women's Day Knitting magazines, and like your Simplicity Sewing, it fascinates me how styles change, but much of the advice could have easily been written just this week. I think that understanding color harmony and the interplay of different shapes are basic design principles, so I've no trouble taking advice from an old publication. Provided it's mixed with a healthy dose of my own personal likes and dislikes, of course!

  2. too cute that you wear the colors for your 1950's self!

  3. I think some of the suggestions for color would work for me. I love that they have little tips like that. What a fun book! Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Books like this date in some ways but not in others, don't they? I had an early 1970s McCalls book a while back and it had some great advice on sewing with my vintage (1950s) machine – how to manage everything without a zigzag stitch, for example. I'm sure the tailoring advice in here will be a good basis for your jacket project. Kind of wishing I hadn't given my old book away now...

  5. I have one of those Simplicity books from the mid-60s, it's pretty similar although it doesn't have a section on what colours would suit a person. I've got a Vogue one as well, can't remember what year off hand, and that goes in to a lot more technical detail. They're great just to have as inspiration, even if you don't follow the instructions!

  6. What a great find! Old fashion and sewing magazines are just so elegant and well illustrated. I'd take this advice and the colours showns for my colouring actually are among my favourites... :)



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